Memory of Auschwitz Survivors

Limor Schelach, Israel Nachson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Accuracy and other characteristics of memories of five survivors of the Auschwitz extermination camp (three males and two females) were examined by comparing their recollections from the camp with pertinent information derived from two credible sources, and by systematically analysing their narratives. The survivors first freely recalled their experiences, and then responded to detailed questions regarding the following items: pre-absorption and absorption procedures, camp layout, housing and sanitary conditions, daily routine and the local jargon, roll calls, food, specific clothing articles, cases of death, and specific unusually dramatic events. In addition, they were asked to identify the faces of ten Nazi personalities. Accuracy of survivors' responses was determined by 25 judges, and assessment of their narratives was made by 50 other judges. Data analysis showed that overall level of accuracy was about 60%, but identification of the Nazi personalities was very poor. Further analysis showed that two groups, of 'anxious' and of 'adapting' survivors, could be distinguished. Relative to the 'adapting' survivors, the 'anxious' survivors had better memory for special events, poorer memory for neutral and routine events, and about equally good memory for emotional events. Their narratives were rich with expressions of fear, anxiety and sensory descriptions. No relationships between memory attributes and age, sex and length of stay in the camp could be established. It was concluded that memories of Auschwitz survivors are category-dependent and differentially associated with specific personal attributes. The legal implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-132
Number of pages14
JournalApplied Cognitive Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2001


Dive into the research topics of 'Memory of Auschwitz Survivors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this